Loveless: the 2000s emo band for the TikTok generation: “There's more power being an influencer than a rock star”

Loveless are a 2000s emo band for the TikTok generation. Julian Comeau explains why he’s just fine with that.

“People ask me, ‘What's it like navigating the music industry?’ I’m like, ‘Well, we didn't really navigate the music industry. We navigated social media and the world of social media has eclipsed the music industry,’” says Comeau – singer, songwriter, producer and one half of alt rock-pop band, Loveless.

After exploding onto the Billboard charts with their emo version of Elley Duhé’s Middle of The Night, they’ve been busy feeding the algorithm with relentless 30-second cover videos of whatever song is trending in the charts or elsewhere on TikTok – and it’s working. 

In a very short amount of time, the band has racked up 1.9 million followers on the platform and over two million monthly Spotify listeners.

“There's way more power in being an influencer than there is being a rock star,” shrugs Comeau. “A lot of people are afraid of that – they want the mystique and the image of, ‘I'm a rockstar,’ but for me it's like, ‘I don't care. I'll be an influencer’. I'll sell the Sunset Lamp if that means that people care about my band more,” he laughs.

“I remember reading years ago that Jared Leto decided to go into Hollywood because people weren't taking his band seriously. I think that's such a flex. It's like, ‘Man, nobody likes my band. I guess I'll just become an Oscar-winning actor and then people will care about my music.’”

The world of social media has eclipsed the music industry.

Comeau’s methods of getting the band’s music into the social spotlight may seem calculated, but the results speak for themselves. TikTok and Instagram is the new way to market music to a young, scroll-addicted demographic, and he’s giving the people what they want. He usually makes two or three videos for socials a day.

“I’m constantly trying to be creative and flex those muscles,” he says, “because I do think it's a muscle: you have to practise and be doing it all the time or you lose it.”

Just six months after meeting and quickly forming a friendship, Comeau and multi-instrumentalist Dylan Tirapelli-Jamail officially formed Loveless in 2020. They’d been uploading music for about a year until their cover of Duhé’s Middle of The Night changed everything.

“Elley posted her song and it got 100 million streams. I’d been hearing the song a lot on TikTok, so wanted to do a cover, and I remember making the video and thinking it might be something special. 

I heard it in my head – I heard the [he launches into Loveless’ version of the song's chorus]. I heard that and I knew where it was going. We posted it and I didn't check my phone for about five hours. I came back and there were a million notifications.”

Things changed in an instant. Loveless were inundated by record labels requesting specific covers and managers wanting to work with them.

“I guess we're a band now,” he says on picking a management company. “We're in the system and now people pay attention to us. It's all very cool, but it's all based on 30 second covers that I made on the internet.”

Some of their covers have more success than others as the band experiments with what resonates on socials or not. After the renewed interest and chart position of Kate Bush’s 1985 single Running Up That Hill due to its prominent feature in season four of Stranger Things, Loveless piggybacked off the renewed attention in the track with a rock cover.

“That’s why we did it – it was the Stranger Things thing,” he nods. “It went so viral that we were like, ‘Alright, we said we were done with covers, but [Billie Eilish’s] Happier Than Ever and Middle Of The Night did some serious numbers on TikTok and Spotify’. 

"We were convinced that Running Up That Hill would do the same thing – and it kind of didn't. I think Middle Of The Night was lightning in a bottle. I really think that cover was special. When we went to do Running Up That Hill, it was oversaturated.

“It’s like when [Sam Smith’s] Unholy went really viral – we used it for a lot of clout. It was really fun, but that's all it was,” he says unapologetically. “It really was just like, ‘This song is trending. Let's milk it’. We got our clout out of it.”

We acknowledge that the covers are the reason that we are here. But let's adapt and grow with that platform.

Loveless’ music is a 2000s emo fan’s dream – sounding like a combination of the best bits of Thirty Seconds To Mars, My Chemical Romance and Evanescence – and Comeau has got the vocal chops worthy of the comparison. It turns out that he’s actually a big musical theatre fan, discovering rock music a little later in life.

“I'm pretty sure if you look at my Spotify Wrapped from 2014, it's going to be exclusively Newsies. I got musical theatre for days. I haven't listened to musicals in a long time though – I kind of fell out of love with it. But for years and years and years, my favourite was probably Newsies or Spring Awakening. It definitely inspires how I create rock music. 

"I didn't discover heavy music until I was 18, and the – quote-unquote – heavy music someone showed me was Beartooth when I was 19. I was like, ‘This is my life now’.”

A receptive fanbase in place, Loveless has now shifted its attention to creating original music with the release of their End of an era EP, featuring four original songs alongside their most viral renditions so far. 

The title simultaneously embraces moving away from the covers that made their name and Gen-Z’s aversion to using Caps Lock.

“We were calling it an End of an era but it's a lowercase E on era because we acknowledge that the covers are the reason that we are here. But also, let's adapt, let's grow with that platform. Let's not just do the same thing over and over again, because the fans and the comments are kind of over the covers – they're ready for new originals.”

I'm gonna cheat, lie and steal as much as possible on social media and be this influencer type.

That's not to say that Loveless’ cover days are over:

“I love making the covers. I'm not going to stop making them, like if something is really popping off or if it's really funny or catchy…” he trails off. “If Charlie Puth hits me up tomorrow and says, ‘Hey, let's put out the Charlie Puth remix,’ I will do that. I think remixes are probably what I want to do more,” he discloses.

“That's probably what we're gonna start leaning towards more. I'll start writing my own verses to these pop songs – I'm giving you my secrets,” he laughs. 

“I haven't started doing this yet. But that's what I'm thinking: move away from covers without totally abandoning it, because obviously we have 1.9 million followers on Tiktok and half of those people are not there for me. They're there for the covers. So we still have to win them over. 

"Getting the follow on TikTok just means that you show up in their feed. It doesn't mean they like you yet; you still have to earn it every single time. I treat it like every single post I make is the first time someone's seeing you.”

In a match made in TikTok heaven, Loveless just released original track, Supernova with fellow social media sensation Nic D. Comeau is relieved the track has been a hit with fans despite being a slight departure from their usual sound.

“It's really a pop song,” he acknowledges. “But people love it. That gets me excited for what we can do in the future, because obviously our biggest song is a heavier track. A lot of people expect us to lean into that heavier, more screaming stuff, so then for us to be like, ‘Here's a pop song about falling in love with somebody,’ they're like, ‘What?’ 

"I'm really happy with the response on that one though. It's honestly been a relief after writing so much original music that people don't get to hear. It's great to have something come out; immediately people are resonating with it and it's organically growing really fast. That feels huge.”

End of an era’s IS IT ME is the original track Comeau is most proud of on the new album, although he isn’t sure how well it will be received in the US.

“It's a banger. I think that one is great. Everyone else seems to like Worst Case Scenario, but I'm all about IS IT ME. If anyone is going to take anything from this conversation, they should listen to IS IT ME

"Maybe that song will do better in the UK,” he muses, revealing that the band are playing their first London headline date in January 2023.

“I think maybe it's trying too hard in the US – I don't think the US is ready for something like that. There's a lot going on, stylistically, and maybe people are like, ‘Is it a trying-to-toe-the-line pop song? Is it a pop-punk song? Is it a rock song?’ 

"It also shows off a lot of what I can do vocally and a lot of the musical theatre influences – there's a lot of big, long, high notes. It's very much written for a live show. When we start playing the songs live, this one's gonna be fun every single night.”

We have 1.9 million followers on Tiktok and half of those people are not there for me. They're there for the covers.

With the next live show in L.A imminent, does Comeau ever regret recording such vocally challenging notes and having to hit them live?

“Yes, there's a couple,” he smiles. “There's a couple of choruses, but it's usually not one note, honestly – the one note I can do. It's the staying up there forever that I hate! I do that to myself a couple of times: we have a song Control, and we have a song Everest – and in both of those songs I'm just [he belts out the chorus to Everest] the whole time – no breaths, you're there, but it's really fun. 

"It's one of those things where the audience is screaming it just as loud as I am, so if I ever get tired, I just listen to them. It's a dream come true every single night.”

Loveless fans might not be aware that Comeau is also a producer for other rock and heavy metal acts as well as ‘sort-of’ producing Loveless’ music. He explains:

“I'm gonna say yes [to producing the band’s music], but we have a third, secret member of Loveless – our engineer Nick Morzov. He's worked with everyone from Animals as Leaders to Travis Barker. Dude's a serious engineer and he's been helping us engineering everything and producing stuff on the new record. 

"For a long time it was just me, and for many years people told me, ‘You're a vocal producer,’ so it was kind of like, ‘I'll show them, I'll produce this record’. And that's not the right energy to do it – that's not how you win. 

"So with the new stuff, I put my hands up and I said, ‘Hey man, I trust you. I want you to do this’. So he mixed it. I built the tracks at the start, I produced the basic demos with all the production, and then handed that to Nick who then does all the drums, the live instruments like the guitar and bass, because we use real amps. It's a whole thing,” he grins.

The Cubase compressor is the best compressor. Put that thing on any vocal, it’s amazing!

Helping him lay Loveless’ groundwork is Steinberg’s DAW, Cubase, which he switched over to from Pro Tools five years ago.

“I switched because it's what my friends were using. It’s what Tyler Smyth [producer and frontman of American metalcore band Dangerkids] was using, and it’s what my band at the time was using. I wanted to work with Tyler, so the way that I got into Cubase was session compatibility, but I fell in love with the tuning and the workflow. 

"I've always been a big fan of the workflow – I could never switch back to Pro Tools. It's just so customisable. It's so interchangeable. You can use the stock sounds and the stock plugins for everything. I still think the Cubase compressor is the best compressor,” he enthuses. “It's just the best compressor. Put that thing on any vocal, it’s amazing!

“And with a high ratio, fast attack, fast release, you're set to just crush it. It does so much to a vocal. Just the fact that you can change key commands – which you can't do in some DAWs – that’s kind of a deal breaker. 

"Plus you can make macros built-in," he adds, "I have a macro that if I have a stereo track that I need to make into a mono track, it does all of those things in two seconds – it splits the track into a mono track, it disables one of the tracks, hides that track, and then it keeps one of the mono tracks there. It does all of those options for me in one click, and I only had to do it one time. Cubase is cool. I'm a fan.”

In terms of new original Loveless music, Comeau reveals there’s lot to come:

“We have so much music. We have 100 demos, so it's time for me to start narrowing it down a little bit. We just started working on a new song that I'm really excited about, so there’s a bunch of new Loveless stuff in the works.”

With that, he has to go – he’s got a TikTok video to make.

“It's always been really important to me that I'm a performer at heart,” he points out. 

“If I wasn't making music, I'd probably be acting or doing something behind the scenes. 

"It’s important to me that no matter what, people are checking out the music. I'm not gonna suffer through it and be like, ‘Oh, we have to do this ‘the right’ way. No, I'm gonna cheat, lie and steal as much as possible on social media and be this influencer type, because the power of social media is huge.”